SHANGHAI, China -- Daniel Ricciardo has hit out at critics after qualifying seventh fastest and best of the rest for the Chinese Grand Prix, saying some people need a bit of patience when analysing his recent form.
Since moving to Renault ahead of the 2019 season, Ricciardo has been off the pace of teammate Nico Hulkenberg and is yet to score a single championship point after consecutive retirements at Albert Park and Sakhir. But the Australian has enjoyed his best weekend in yellow at Formula One's 1,000th championship race, qualifying seventh fastest in Shanghai, a narrow 0.004 seconds ahead of Hulkenberg.
"It's only the third race. I think some people are thinking we've had half a season already. It hasn't been that long," Ricciardo said when asked whether the early-season criticism directed at him is fair. "I haven't done anything that makes me forget how to drive. I know it's been a long time since I was on a podium, but I still remember what to do. [People] just need a bit of patience.
"In football, for example, one guy gets a hat trick and the next two games doesn't score a goal. It's like 'what happened?'. One week ago he was the king of the show.
"When you're at the top level in any sport, people always have the expectation that you should be at the top every single day. For a lot of people, it's short term [memory]."
Ricciardo, who won in China last year for Red Bull, believes he's finally starting to get comfortable in his Renault. However, he doesn't expect to make a whole lot of ground during Sunday's race. Lining up ahead of him are the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers who continue to hold a serious pace advantage over the midfield teams.
"This weekend as a whole has been a bit smoother. Yesterday morning, in first practice, I felt more comfortable. I'm not surprised [with the qualifying result] because yesterday I was already in that direction.
"On paper, we're at the front end of our group. The three teams in front of us do have faster cars at the moment, so if everyone has their best race, realistically seventh is probably our best result we can ask for. If both cars finish seventh and eighth tomorrow, we're probably not popping champagne bottles, but I think we're going to be pretty pleased."